Best places to visit in and around Chennai

Chennai is one of the metropolitan cities in the south of India. It is the capital city of Tamil Nadu. Chennai is considered the place where the old meets the new and lives in synchrony. It is a city that can stand by its tradition and yet handle with pride a vibrant nightlife and offer a lot of options to its young and feisty crowds. If you are looking at establishments that have been around forever and come with their history, want to meet and greet in a young thinking futuristic environment, there is something for everyone in Chennai.

With its perfect location, on the shores of Bay of Bengal, Chennai not just is a beach town, but also a great place that has many options nearby. If you are looking for great tourist places near Chennai as well, you will not be disappointed because it has a host of interesting places on the outskirts. Packed with beaches, virgin beaches, great restaurants, architectural sites, cultural places, theatres, and many more options, here are some places you must visit in Chennai. Here is a list of some of the best places to visit in Chennai

Best Places to Visit in Chennai

1. Valluvar Kottam

Valluvar Kottam -places to visit in Chennai

Built-in honor of Thiruvalluvar, a great visionary and thinker of yesteryears. He was considered one of the greatest poets this land has produced. Chief Minister Mr. M. Karunanidhi built this monument in 1970, and the beauty of this monument is as powerful as the history it stands tall where Village road in Nungambakkam and Kodambakkam high road meet, in Chennai. It is shaped in the form of a chariot and is lit up with bright lights in the evening to make it an iconic view.  

2. Marina Beach

Marina Beach -places to visit in Chennai

Chennai is a beach town that is the host to the second largest beach in the world, Marina Beach . Before any of the other beaches in Chennai, we explored, this beach was used for joggers, families, and the young alike. With small shops that serve street food and games for little children, this is a beach where most of the Chenaits have been at least once. It stretches over 13 km and has something for everyone. The elderly, the young, the romantic, the sportspeople, the fishermen, traders and more. It is considered a natural beach. Iconic artists and leaders such as Anna, MGR, J Jayalalitha, and Karunanidhi have their Samadhis here, which attracts a lot of visitors every year. 

3. Nettukuppam

Nettukuppam -places to visit in Chennai

Nettukuppam is one of those beaches that has, in all these years, not been known to many and hence still remains untouched. It looks a little like an estuary, with Ennore’s creek meets the sea. If you want to have a quiet picnic away from the hustle and bustle of the city, this place is a must go. However, remember to pack food and water, because you will not find too many hawkers in the area. A photographer’s heaven, there is a pier if you want to walk on to the edge, or just sit and watch the water. There is also the breathtaking view of the Chennai skyline that you can always enjoy. It is perfect for people that love the sea breeze, the dreamy feeling, and the tranquillity of a place.

4. Birla Planetarium

Birla Planetarium -places to visit in Chennai

If you are a fan of astronomy, then certainly this is a must-go-to place. Periyar Science and Technology is a great place to try different experiments and understand science and technology with simple illustrations. Located in Koturpuram, Chennai, many schools in and around Chennai come here as a day trip to learn the wonders of science, and catch a show in the actual Birla Planetarium. The 3D theatre provides shows in multiple languages and usually enthralls the people that come to watch it.   

5. Gandhi Mandapam

Gandhi Mandapam -places to visit in Chennai

In an area called Adyar, on the street called Sardar Patel Road (or SP road), lies a beautiful area that has many structures. This is called the Gandhi Mandapam. It was initially envisioned and built in honor of the late Mahatma Gandhi way back on 27 January 1056 and was opened by C Rajagopalachari. Subsequently, other freedom fighters were added to give the mahatma company. This is a must-visit place for its sure beauty. Get an education, have conversations, or just sit down with a book to absorb the environment and read in peace. 

 6. VGP Golden Beach

VGP Golden Beach -places to visit in Chennai

On the highway headed towards Mahabalipuram, on East Coast Road (also called ECR) VGP Golden Beach is a family entertainment amusement part. This place has been around for eons and has something for everyone in the family. The Statue Man is unique to this property. The Statue Man is a person that stands at the entry point expressionless. Once you enter, you can go to the amusement parks, grab something to eat, or just stroll down to the beach and watch the marvellous sculptures that they have created. This is a place you can easily spend an entire day in, if not for anything else for the history it brings with it. 

7. MGM Dizzee World and Beach Resort

MGM Dizzee World and Beach Resort -places to visit in Chennai

MGM Dizzee World is one of the amusement parks that are fairly recent on the East Coast Road (or ECR) when compared to VGP Golden Beach, but it makes up for the fun it can be. It has a host of adventure riders and has the MGM Beach Resort next door. MGM Beach Resort, set on the beach, hosts a fabulous lunch buffet beachside. Once you are exhausted and exhilarated from the rides, you can step in next door to get the most awe-inspiring views as you gobble up all the food that they have to offer. The restaurant brings you back to the calm and serenity that you have earned if you are visiting tourist places near Chennai.     

8. Government Museum

Government Museum -places to visit in Chennai

The Government Museum is made of many names; it is also popularly called the Egmore Museum and Madras Museum. It was established way back in 1851 and is considered to be the second oldest museum in India. It focuses on human history and the British raj and all the other aspects of human history. They have different buildings addressing different aspects of the museum. They even have sections that showcase animals, sculptors, exhibits and more.

9. Arignar Anna Zoological Park

Arignar Anna Zoological Park -places to visit in Chennai

Arignar Anna Zoological Park (AAZP) famously known as the vandalur zoo, is situated in Vandalur. It has been a famous tourist place near Chennai that is a host to thousands of wild species. It is known for its mammals, reptiles, birds and more. It is considered the largest zoological park in India that also has an array of flora and fauna. It is associated and affiliated with the Central Zoo Authority of India, that hosts endangered species and rescues a host of them.  

10. Dakshinachitra Museum

Dakshinachitra Museum -places to visit in Chennai

If you like to follow heritage museums, Dakshinachitra is a place near Chennai you certainly cannot miss. It is the best heritage museum in Chennai. It is a living cultural museum that encourages people to get involved in art, lifestyle, crafts, performing arts, types of architecture and more. It showcases different types of houses and artifacts that used to belong to each of the homes. It has heritage museums, showcases different art forms and many other engaging options that will blow your mind. Dakshinachitra Museum was opened to the public way back on December 14, 1996. It is one of the great places to visit near Chennai. 

11. Ashtalakshmi Temple

Ashtalakshmi Temple -places to visit in Chennai

Ashtalakshmi temple is one of the most beautiful temples situated on the shores of the Elliot or Besant Nagar beach. It is a Hindu temple dedicated to the different ‘avatars’ of goddess Lakshmi. The Ashtalakshmi is dedicated to 8 Lakshmi’s, each of which represents every type of wealth. The eight Lakshmi’s are Aadi-Lakshmi or Maha Lakshmi (purity and all-encompassing), Dhana-Lakshmi (wealth), Dhanya-Lakshmi (food), Gaja-Lakshmi (prosperity), Santana-Lakshmi (offspring), Veera-Lakshmi (courage), Vidya-Lakshmi (knowledge), and Vijaya-Lakshmi (victory or success). 

12. Santhome Cathedral

Santhome Cathedral -places to visit in Chennai

Also known as Santhome Cathedral Basilica and International Shrine of Saint Thomas Cathedral Basilica, is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Chennai. It has been said that the name “Santhome” is derived from “Saint” “Thomas” who travelled to India in 57 AD and was martyred in 72 AD. His tomb was the location of the Cathedral. It is believed that this Cathedral is built over a tomb that was built over his remains. Apart from the intrigue associated with it, the beauty is remarkable. The paintings and the way the light travels through this cathedral and something to experience.  

13. Thousand Lights Mosque

Thousand Lights Mosque -places to visit in Chennai

This beautiful mosque in the heart of the city at Anna Salai gets its name because it used to be lit by a thousand lights in the past to bring light to the prayer hall. Looking at the mosque today, you will be lost in thoughts on how beautiful it would have been back then. It is believed to have been built in the 19th century by the Wallajah family. It is a mosque, though important to all Muslims, it is specifically significant to Shia Muslims. The architecture is beautiful with carvings of the Quran on the walls. It is considered one of the largest mosques in the country and is certainly a must-see.     

14. Besant Nagar beach

Besant Nagar beach -places to visit in Chennai

Besant Nagar Beach is often considered the endpoint of Marina beach. It is also called Elliot’s beach and is named after a once chief magistrate of Chennai Edwards Elliots. It is the host to the Annai Velankanni church and the Ashtalakshmi temple. If you are in the Besant Nagar beach, the Karl Schmidt memorial is bang in the middle of the beach that cannot be missed. It is dedicated to a brave sailor who lost his life-saving others from drowning. This is more popular today but has always been a hangout area for the youth in Chennai.   

15. Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram -places to visit in Chennai

This monumental town of Mahabalipuram is 60 kilometers away from Chennai on the east coast road facing the ay of Bengal. Today, though it is a hotspot tourist place near Chennai and is a host to many resorts and hotels for people who come to relax, many eons ago it was one of the most important times. This importance goes way back to the Pallava dynasty who built the Seven Pagodas. The shore temple, the open-air museum, Arjuna’s penance, Tiger caves, and more are regular tourist spots for people that travel to Mahabalipuram. However, you can also finish the tour, come back and just enjoy the ocean and its serenity. 

16. Madras Crocodile Bank

Madras Crocodile Bank -places to visit in Chennai

If reptiles catch your fancy, or even unique experiences do, Madras Crocodile Bank is one of the most important places to visit near Chennai. Just 40 kilometres away on the east coast road, crocodile bank is an institution in itself that was established way back in 1976 to stop the poaching of crocodiles and secure them. Since then they have grown and now have 17 species of crocodiles and hundreds of them. They also have turtles, snakes, birds and other such species on display. They also have a souvenir store to help you take home a piece of history. Just to see the marvel of these reptiles this becomes one of the important tourist spots around Chennai.  

17. Fort St. George

Fort St. George -places to visit in Chennai

Considered the first fortress that the English built in India, Fort St George was built way back in 1644. The British also built the oldest Anglican Church called St Mary’s Church in the same place. Fort St George also comprises a museum and the Wellesley house that are a treat to the eyes. As much as there can be much animosity towards the British Raj, this is just one of the structures that have beautiful architecture and the history they left behind. Given that it has been open to the public, going here and seeing the history will be time well spent. 

18. Children’s Park and Snake Park

Children’s Park and Snake Park -places to visit in Chennai

Situated next to each other in Adyar is a great picnic area for children. It is a beautiful place that has animals, birds, and a whole bunch of snakes on display. Many schools organize children picnics here, as a day out, to introduce young kids to animals and teach them how they can coexist with nature. The snake park has many species of snakes and other reptiles. They also are a host to a museum. Located on Sardar Patel Road (or SP road) these are next to each other and are often the first step for children to get close to animals within Chennai.    

19. Chowki Dhani

Chowki Dhani -places to visit in Chennai

If you have never been on a journey to Rajasthan, heard a lot about the place, and have wanted to go there at some point; Chowki Dhani might be a good start for you. ‘Excellent Village’ a direct translation to ‘Chowki Dhani’ is a mock of a Rajasthani village. Established in 1989, Chowki Dhani tries to bring the real Rajasthan experience to its patrons. This includes an understanding of the art, the painting, the performances, the food, the tradition, and more. It is about traditional Rajasthan. Their culinary skills are priceless, and the performers are authentic and take pride in what and how they do. Situated in Sriperumbudur, it is certainly a place to visit to get a taste of Rajasthan in the south of India.  

20. Pulicat Lake

Pulicat Lake -places to visit in Chennai

60km away from Chennai, this Pulicat Lake is the second largest lagoon in India. It is one of those lakes near Chennai that is popular for boating, jet skiing, and many other activities. It’s a heaven for bird watchers because every year thousands of birds like Greater Flamingos, Kingfishers, Spoonbills, Ducks, and Pelican migrate here. If you are interested in exploring some ancient carving, then you can explore some age-old temples and churches located nearby. Being a quiet and naturally soothing location, it is an ideal location for shutterbugs.

 

Having said this, there are many places to visit near Chennai and within Chennai alike. To go with the cliches this is just a drop in the sea. Being an old city, previously known as Madras, has a rich heritage and is blessed with being a shore city. Therefore, almost every street you go through comes with its own bit of history. Therefore, if you are looking for the best places to visit in Chennai or the best tourist places near Chennai, you could potentially be spoilt for choices. 

There is the vedanthangal bird sanctuary – you are interested in bird watching, you have a host of religious places such as the Padmanabha Swamy Koil, kapaleeswarar temple, annai velankanni church and more – if religious tours are for you, there are many many food options for your palate – if you are a foodie, if you like to party – there are many bars and dance floors around the city, there are many plays and events and seasonal events – if you are into cultural things. 

You will need to make the choice based on what your interests are and what you want to do, and more importantly how much time you have. No matter where you go and how much time you spend in Chennai, there will always be much to explore. The more you explore Chennai, the more you will get lost in its heritage and culture and even maybe rediscover yourself. 

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